Rhetoric in Paul’s Letter to Philemon

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I am uploading a paper I wrote at Harding Graduate School of Religion for Dr. Oster’s class on Paul’s Prison Letters on Paul’s Use of Rhetoric in Philemon for all you Philemon fans out there. This paper discusses slavery in the ancient world, ancient Greek rhetoric and more specifically the rhetorical devices that Paul uses in his letter to Philemon. I sure wish I had a socio-rhetorical commentary from Ben Witherington when I wrote this paper. Here is the paper in pdf. By the way, if you are looking for a really good commentary on Philemon have a look at Joseph Fitzmyer’s commentary in the anchor Bible commentary series. It is excellent.

0 Responses

  1. Matt,
    Lately, I’ve gotten obsessed with the study of rhetoric, and have been working my way through about 5 different rhetoric books; particularly some of the classical works on the subject (Aristotle & St. Augustine). I can’t wait to read your paper!

    I’m hoping soon to begin doing a series of blog posts about utilizing rhetorical devices. It’s a very helpful subject that we use way more than we realize.


  2. Thanks Matt. I’m currently studying logic and rhetoric. The first thing that popped out at me was the similarities between Paul’s letters and rhetorical methods seen in The Rhetoric by Aristotle.

    One Question: Do you believe that Paul was using a rhetorical device as seen by Socrates in Socrates’ Defense from The Apology of Socrates when he lowers the expectation by saying he’s not that great of a speaker? Is it possible employing that sort of strategy would cause the people of Athens to focus on the message rather than the oratorical skills of Paul? If so it was a great maneuver, however, it does lead to some ethical and moral questions. I’m curious as to your thoughts.

    Take care,


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